EDITORIAL: Specialists in your hometown and county

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 2, 2023

On Saturday’s opinion page (in print with this editorial) we ran a column from Dean Ridings, of America’s Newspapers, speaking on the importance of small-town and community journalism.

A lot of discussion on the topic often focuses on the concept of “news deserts,” meaning areas or towns that have lost their newspaper and, with it, coverage of local events and developments.

Some may be dismissive of this and say, “Well, there’s always the TV.”

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This is not to be disparaging any way of television journalists (some of our staff have worked in that industry as well), but it’s not just the same.

Take for instance our situation locally.

All four local stations have an enormously wide coverage area, based in West Virginia, with coverage of Ohio and Kentucky thrown in as well.

More locations to cover means more competition for news items to get on the air, more places to consider and less time for focusing on any one locale.

Even the most diligent broadcast reporter (or their station’s online writer), in such a setup, could not develop the expertise for a single city or county that comes from a local newspaper.

A perfect illustration of this could be seen this month, during Ironton’s mayoral election.

We won’t single out the station, who were doing their best to cover three states of races, but on general election night, a local outlet proclaimed on its website that incumbent Mayor Sam Cramblit II had won the election.

This, of course, was not accurate at that point.

With just under 35 percent of the vote, Cramblit, who led the five-candidate field, had not won the 40 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff election.

Contrast that to our coverage here at The Tribune, where reporters specialize in Ironton and Lawrence County and have more of a background on processes here.

We not only stated there was no winner on election night, but explained that the race was headed to a runoff election two weeks later and, in follow-up stories, we detailed how that process would work.

Having staff on hand who deal with city and county officials, and a few who were working here when the city last had a runoff, in 2015, allowed us to get that story right on election night.

The TV station, to their credit, corrected their story later that night, after viewers, likely seeing The Tribune’s coverage, told them they had made a mistake.

And the need for hyper-local news was seen again as the runoff approached. With such a short window, the county board of elections did not have ample time to send notifications to voters on the format of the new election, having to rely on social media and their website – and it was imperative that The Tribune do its part to get that information out to voters, which we did in each edition leading up to the runoff.

These were but two examples of how specific locales benefit from having their own news outlet. 

Consider things such as new businesses opening in town, city and village council meetings, achievements by students at schools or in local sports – these are all things you get from a local newspaper that often do not find space in the multi-state broadcasts of our friends in the TV industry.

Simply put: If you want to stay informed on your local community, support a local newspaper.

We thank all readers who read The Tribune, whether through print or digital subscriptions, or buying off the rack, and we strive to provide you with the most thorough coverage of Ironton and Lawrence County that we can.